Putting your preschooler to bed at a reasonable hour every single night might be tricky, but setting such a routine will have impact not only on her behavior the following day but through 2nd grade, a new study done at the University College London and published earlier this fall in the journal Pediatrics has found.
Going to bed at differing times consistently interrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythms and sends the body into a state similar to jet lag, researcher Yvonne Kelly told the University College London News. This greatly effects healthy development and brain maturation along with daily functioning in school, she said.
Children with varying bedtimes exhibit hyperactivity, and have problems with peers and prosocial behavior by age 7, the study states.
The team of researchers, which also included John Kelly and Amanda Sacker, also at University College London, studied more than 10,000 children in the United Kingdom born from September 2000 through January 2002 at ages 3, 5 and 7. They asked both mothers and teachers to rate behavior.
The regular bedtimes took place before 9 p.m., the study stated.
Moreover, the effects were compounded: The longer children kept inconsistent bedtimes, the worse their behavior became, study states.
That said, there is hope for families who have erratic schedules.
The research noted that children who had uneven bedtimes and were then given consistent bedtimes before 9 p.m. ceased having problematic behaviors related to sleep debt.
It was also true that children who, while very young, had consistent bedtimes but picked up more erratic ones as they aged, began to exhibit problematic behavior, the study stated.
The upshot: Consistently put your child to bed before 9 p.m.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.